Poor response from Rebecca Pow – the Minister ‘responsible’

The Westminster government is a busted flush – it does not do the big things right and cannot even do the small things. I wrote to my MP, Tom Pursglove, on 19 January – click here – to enquire about lack of progress by government on five straightforward matters on which simple government action is needed. I’ve just received, via Mr Pursglove (whom I thank for his efforts on my behalf) a limp response from Rebecca Pow who has responsibility for four of these matters.

Hedgerow regulations: the regulations protecting hedgerows from inappropriate management in the bird nesting season, which protect birds and a wide range of other wildlife dependent on hedgerows, needed to be updated following our exit from the Common Agricultural Policy and ‘taking control’ of our agriculture policy. Defra were slow to consult on this matter but did so last summer with a closing date of 20 September last year. The existing regulations ceased to hold sway on 1 January this year.  I responded to the consultation as an individual, and so did many Wild justice supporters (22% of all respondents and more than five times as many as the RSPB mobilised – click here) and the results of that consultation were published last week – click here – a few days before this response arrived. 

Below is the Defra response which demonstrates that Defra does not know when it will update the regulations protecting hedgerows and therefore confirms that these environmental protections are absent at the moment and probably throughout this year – and unless they or a future government pull out their fingers, next year too. This is ineptitude by Defra – the lapsing of these regulations was known far in  advance – it’s a form of Brexit ‘dividend’ – but the department has let protection disappear.

I’ll be writing back to Mr Pursglove.

Lead ammunition: another consultation to which I responded and where Defra is dragging its feet – see below.  Pow can only state that HSE will finish the analysis ‘this year’ and that after that relevant ministers across the UK will make up their minds.  To say that this is progress is pathetic – it’s unbelievably slow. I put this down as a broken promise as there is little to no chance that this government will have the time, energy or will to get this done.

Later today I expect to see the latest results of the Shotswitch analyses which will tell us whether the promises made by the shooting industry to phase out lead ammunition use in 5 years are going well – after one year, two years and three years there was practically no progress. What shall we find out today?

Peat: it was actually in December 2021 that Defra promised to ban peat sale by 2024 – it hasn’t happened. Pow is vague and evasive about whether it will happen – another broken promise because this government almost certainly won’t have time to get it done.

Woodcock shooting season: George Eustice promised to review the shooting season of Woodcock on his last day as Secretary of State, in a letter to Wild Justice on 6 September 2022 – click here. This is a very simple matter that can be decided in Defra and implemented very quickly and yet nothing was done for the 2022/23 shooting season, nothing was in place for the 2023/24 shooting season and there isn’t even a promise that anything will be in place for the 2024/25 shooting season. This whole tale illustrates the inability through incompetence and/or bad faith of the recent and current Defra ministerial teams.

Swift bricks: the response to this part of my letter should have come from Michael Gove’s department but I haven’t seen anything yet. I’ll be chasing.


I’ll write back to my MP later today, thanking him for having extracted these responses but pointing out how poor they are and how they won’t have put any doubt in my mind that I should not vote for him in the coming general election because his fellow ministers are failures, Defra under this administration is a failed department and the Conservative Party is failing to act on the simplest of measures let alone the difficult matters of environmental policy.



3 Replies to “Poor response from Rebecca Pow – the Minister ‘responsible’”

  1. Ref: Hedgerows
    In my experience as both ex-farmer and wildlife lover, many in the countryside abide by the suggested date window which will hopefully become law, although I am uncertain how it will be efficiently enforced.
    I did have to do my field hedges by hand after March 1st this year as I couldn’t get a tractor onto the land so some areas will have to wait until the new hedge cutting season.
    However the council seems to ignore these regs with regularity, probably hiding behind the ‘sight lines’ exception.
    But the worst offenders are the positively anal smallholders and urban gardeners who obsess about appearance with scant regard for wildlife. I have two in close proximity and remonstrating results in a two fingered salute!
    I should be delighted when I can point out the law.
    On the other hand, a local farmer has just planted 8,000 new hedgerow plants. I know this because he was in front of me whilst waiting to order a measly 100. He is restoring hedgerows ripped out by former generations. Well done him.

    Mark Avery – a typo about number of hedgerow plants has been corrected]

  2. ‘which will…provide consideration that any proposals to manage the risk from the use of lead would be practical, proportionate and enforceable’

    Practical and enforceable: the current situation with partial restrictions on the use of lead ammunition is demonstrably unenforceable (or at least extremely hard to enforce) and widely flouted. A full ban on the sale of lead ammunition on the other hand would be entirely practical and highly enforceable.

    Proportionate: lead is a toxic element with no safe dose. It has been demonstrated in various parts of the world that lead shot from shooting (and previously angling) has adverse impacts on the health of wild birds that ingest it and this can in turn have significant adverse effects on population levels. Game meat is offered widely for sale in supermarkets and promoted as being wild and healthy yet has been shown to frequently have levels of lead well in excess of the limits imposed on other types of food. Because of its toxicity, lead has been progressively withdrawn from use in a wide range of applications in which it was formerly widely used (cosmetics, plumbing, paints, fuel additives, fishing weights, electronics…). Satisfactory alternatives to lead ammunition exist and are already widely used. The shooting organisations, in proposing their voluntary phase out, acknowledge both the harm caused by lead and the feasibility of doing without it. For all of these reasons there is simply no justification for continuing to allow the participants in a minority leisure activity to spray lead all over the countryside. A ban is therefore entirely proportionate.

    None of this is new – the government has been informed for many years of the problems with lead ammunition; what are they waiting for?

    1. Christmas but not necessarily next Christmas!

      Ineptitude and arrogance are not great together are they, similarly neither are this government and Defra.

      Unfortunately, I have yet to see any evidence that the next lot will be much better.

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